How to handle drug poisoning?

IStockPhoto

How to handle drug poisoning?

Author: Reilika Nestor 30.12.2014 at 00:00

Every person should have basic knowledge on how to act in case of severe intoxication. The effects of some poisons may manifest immediately after exposure, while others may have a latent period. Latency may last from around 6-10 hours (acute poisoning) to several days (chronic poisoning). This is why you should never wait for the first signs of acute poisoning but take immediate action.

The acuteness and character of intoxication depends mainly on the specific nature of the poison, but also on the victim’s age, gender, state of health, body mass, and stomach content (in case of a full stomach, the effect of some of the ingested poison is dampened by nutrients).

Poison can irritate the mucous membrane and cause vomiting. With this reaction, your body may manage to discharge nearly all of the toxic material from the stomach.

The toxicity level of a poison depends on its solubility. A dissolved poison has a much stronger effect. Time is the most crucial factor. The faster a victim receives first aid and treatment, the better their outlook for recovery.

As said, it is crucial to provide immediate and appropriate help. General principles of emergency care are similar for all types of acute poisoning.

  • Preservation and support of vital functions, i.e breathing and blood circulation. An unconscious person demands special attention. The victim’s head should be stretched from the neck. While transporting, the victim should lie on their side or stomach to avoid vomit or regurgitated stomach content entering their airways. If breathing has stopped, you have to begin artificial respiration. Poisoning is often accompanied by exotoxic shock and might also involve digestive malfunction. In case of cardiac arrest, you need to begin cardiac massage. An unconscious person must be transported to the nearest first aid station or you should call an ambulance.
  • Avoiding further absorption of the poison and accelerating its expulsion. In case of oral ingestion, it is wisest to empty the stomach by vomiting whenever possible. A common emetic substance is lukewarm soap water (a finger-tip size piece of soap or a few drops of liquid soap per a glass of water) which irritates the back of the tongue. Beforehand, the victim may also be provided with lukewarm saline solution to avoid poison entering the small intestine and to help induce vomiting. The procedure is repeated until regurgitated water, i.e vomit, becomes clear. The most effective method is gastric lavage with an irrigation tube inserted to the stomach. This can only be performed by qualified health personnel. If gastric irrigation is contraindicated due to acute esophageal irritation, then the patient is provided with a laxative. Usually a probe is used to administer sodium or magnesium sulphate to the stomach. Castor oil is not appropriate since many poisons are dissolved in oil and become easier to absorb. 
  • Counteracting poisoning with an antidote. For this, a poison victim should be provided with limewater every 5 to 10 minutes. In case of alkali poisoning, the victim should drink a 1% citric acid solution. Damaged mucosal tissue is later treated with fats, oils, or raw egg. 
  • Other treatments as appropriate for the victim’s state. Emergency assistance must be provided on site, but the best outlook is guaranteed by getting the poisoning victim under the care of medical professionals.